The UCLA Bruins may have lost the Pac-12 Championship Game, but that doesn't mean they have to go out on a losing note this college football season. The 6-7 Bruins asked for and received permission from the NCAA for bowl eligibility despite their under-.500 record, basically removing any punishment for the loss to the Oregon Ducks. UCLA finds out their bowl fate today, and several people are picking UCLA for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Sending UCLA to San Francisco on December 31 seems logical since the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (12:30 p.m. PST, on ESPN on New Year's Eve) has fifth choice among Pac-12 teams after the Rose Bowl, and the Bruins have the worst record of all the conference's bowl eligible teams.
In the latest bowl projections at SB Nation, Jason Kirk projects the Bruins to battle the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6), who are a story in their own right. Illinois began their season 6-0 but ended with six straight losses, resulting in the firing of head coach Ron Zook. That would make the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl a battle of teams with interim coaches, as Rick Neuheisel was fired by the Bruins earlier this week. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will lead UCLA on an interim basis, while defensive coordinator Vic Koenning is the interim head of the Illini.
UCLA's bowl opponent could be any number of teams, as other than the Pac-12 tie-in, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will choose an at-large team. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects the Bruins to play the Wyoming Cowboys, who were 8-4 out of the Mountain West Conference. ESPN has their own bowl projections, and Mark Schlabach predicted UCLA would face the Temple Owls (8-4 out of the Mid-American Conferece) while Brad Edwards has the Bruins matching up with the Iowa State Cyclones (6-6 from the Big 12).
We will know for sure UCLA's official bowl fate sometime after 6 p.m. PST, on the bowl selection show on ESPN.
For more news about UCLA football and their potential bowl destination, be sure to read Bruins Nation.